Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rhapsody under the Tonawanda stars

And I thought that encounter at the buffet was weird. Wait till you hear what happened to me yesterday. This is Wednesday we are talking about.

Yesterday I did what I have never done and I called a number in The Buffalo News' Thrifties column. There was a Magnavox record player for sale. My record player kicked a couple of weeks ago and going without it is like going without oxygen. I mean, I talked a good game the other day about playing "Song Without End: The Fabulous Life, Loves and Music of Franz Liszt," but the truth was, I wasn't actually able to play it.

I wind up driving all the way out to the deepest recesses of Tonawanda, out by the 290, where I never go. I got lost once and had to pull into the Delaware Plaza parking lot and call Howard. He had to use GPS technology to get me back on track.

Finally I get to this little ranch house on this dark little street. This woman answers the door -- I never did get her name. Her little grandson and this great little white dog come running up. I pet the kid and the dog and then all of us go back to the back porch, where this stereo was.

I forgot to mention the ad said the stereo came with 130 records. The price was $50 for everything, stereo plus LPs. "My husband bought this estate," the woman was explaining. "He picks up all kinds of stuff. These records aren't our kind of music," she shrugged. "But I'll let you hear what this sounds like."

It was unheated on the porch and you could see everyone's breath. There was a record on the stereo's turntable and it made me smile that it was a Capitol record. Capitol records have been on my mind so much these days because Leonard Pennario was a Capitol artist.

The woman puts the needle on the record. And this beautiful, nostalgic music filled the room. Chopin's D flat waltz.


What are the odds????

"Wow, this is a funny coincidence!" I think that is what I said. "I am writing a book about this pianist. He is ... He was my friend," I said.

I am sure she thought I was nuts.

She had no interest in hearing about Pennario. (Imagine that!) Neither did her husband, who showed up after a few minutes. They wanted to talk about other things. One thing they mentioned was their church. They go to St. Timothy's. This is a Catholic radar signal -- it was my cue to confirm that I was Catholic by mentioning my parish, and from there, we would segue into what priests we both knew, etc. And normally I love talking about the Catholic church. But I was so floored by the Pennario coincidence that I missed my cue totally. I could have been Methodist for all she knew! I was just standing there staring.

Then they told me about the people who had owned the stereo and the records. But that is a very strange and romantic story for another day.

I did have the presence of mind to appreciate the scene: me, this woman, her husband, the kid and the dog, all standing there with steam coming out of our mouths, listening to Pennario play one waltz, then another. "This isn't my style. I like cowboy music," the husband confessed. But the little boy seemed fascinated by the stereo and absorbed in Pennario's artistry.

Well, sorry, kid, you're doomed to a life of dull pop music. Because, needless to say, I left with that stereo, and Pennario's Chopin waltzes, and the rest of the records. Years from now this little boy will be dealing with this traumatic memory on some analyst's couch. He will realize how deprived he was.

That is a picture up above of my new stereo.

Here is another view. Observe the Capitol label.

The stereo has a beautiful warm sound. And when Howard saw it he complimented me on my good taste. "It is so cool," he said. "Look at its legs. It's like out of the Sputnik era."

Plus, among the records I got with the stereo was Pennario's "Rhapsody Under the Stars," which I didn't have!

I can't wait to play it tonight.


Anonymous said...

Mary, I believe that this is Leonard's way of saying "hello". It's a great story!

Anonymous said...

This is a great story. I got the chills and I totally agree with Mike that Leonard wanted to say hello.


Anonymous said...

I think its a great story too, but next time bring howie with you he would of got it for half the price.